The Christmas Count Up!


Β WHAT a FUN, FUN, FUN Christmas season this was!! Elliott was finally old enough to justify putting in some effort towards the Christmas countdown and the kids and I just had a blast. I kept it ULTRA simple and it was all fun with no stress. Next year I’ll try and solidify my activities more in advance so that I’m not making a trip to Michael’s every week for supplies :). If you have a toddler, these activities were pretty good for him. I decided to post what we did (successes and failures!) because I found others’ lists so helpful as I planned!! My biggest advice if you’re planning on doing this next year: 1. Make sure you have a Michael’s nearby! They had a few really fun, cheap crafts that were all cut out and ready to put together. I strolled through at the beginning of the month and added those crafts to the list! 2. FOR SURE take it day-by-day. I had my list of activities in an excel sheet and often printed out the cards weeks at a time, but I never placed them in the envelopes until the night before…sometimes the morning of depending on what I was up for! One thing we did post-Christmas was inspired by my super talented friend Elizabeth who made red and white peppermint play dough for us! I set the kids up with the yummy-smelling dough and some Christmas cookie cutters and they BOTH loved it! Such a fun idea!! Next year, when the kids are older, I’m excited to do more “giving/serving” things and also go on some more adventures…like to The North Pole which happens to be in Colorado Springs!! πŸ™‚

Here’s our envelope tree! Elliott got to open one envelope every day, but always wanted me to pull the card out after the very first one he pulled out got a little wrinkled :). I would hand him the envelope, he would lift up the flap and then hand it back to me saying, “You open it, please? Don’t wrinkle it!”

The Christmas Countdown!! (Or should I say…”Count UP”??

The anticipation builds as he says, “What does it say?? READ it!”

I LOVE surprises πŸ™‚ and seeing his face light up with joy after I read each day’s surprise to him was MY FAVORITE PART…

Besides our fun Christmas activities, we made it a point to read the bible as a family together every night. Brian reads to Elliott from the “big” bible every day, usually while I’m making breakfast for everyone, but for the month of December we read through the Old Testament of the Jesus Story Book Bible (which is AWESOME if you don’t have it!) and tried hard to make it a family event each night after dinner. This bible is so cool because every single story points out how God orchestrates everything to lead us to Jesus. It writes about how God rescues His people time and time again, and then explains that soon He would send an even greater One who be The Rescuer. It’s just awesome. Then, of course, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we read about how He came!! I printed the Advent reading schedule from the internet, colored it, and we simply put a star next to the Day once we had read the story.

And the time was sweet. Usually at some point throughout the day, Elliott would be in the midst of doing something and suddenly shout out, “Mommy! READ THE BIBLE!!!” at the top of his lungs. And I would remind him that we were waiting for Daddy to get home. After dinner we would all sit on the couch. Selah insisted on having her water bottle with her each time and she would climb up onto my lap as Brian would start to read. Then, she would push her way into Brian’s lap and point to the picture on the current page and say with passion and enthusiasm, “THIS!!”

“THIS!”

After a few minutes of pointing as Brian read, she would climb back into my lap and wrestle and play.

During wrestle-mode

Elliott has been in the “WHY” stage so he spent most of the bible stories asking “WHY” about everything. “Why he have a beard?” “Why he in a whale?” “Why he sitting against a tree??” πŸ™‚

I also got to teach Kids Church this month so it was super fun to lead Elliott and his little 2-3 year-old buddies into an understanding of Christmas. He even learned the month’s memory verse, Luke 2:10-11, several weeks ago! I had never worked on it with him; I had just been teaching it to the whole group of kids (mostly targeting the older kids) on Sundays. So I was shocked one day as I was listening to him play and he started saying, “Don’t be afraid! Because I bring you GOOD NEWS…” He normally runs around the living room in circles saying it, but below is the best recording I have.

Click on the “CC” button at the bottom of the YouTube video to turn the close captioning on…it’s a little difficult for the common ear to understand his pronunciation sometimes :).

This Christmas season just felt so FULL (in the BEST sense of the word)…full of Jesus, full of hope, full of sharing in the wonder of the miracle of his birth, and–of course–full of FUN. Elliott is super familiar with all of the people who played a role in the Christmas story. He picks out shepherds every where we go, saying, “Shepherd! He has his staff! So he can guard his sheep!”

Here is our Christmas Countdown!

Day 1: Decorate the house and tree as a family!

Our little nativity set from Grandma & Grandpa was one of the first items we took out of the Christmas bins…

…it provided HOURS upon HOURS of entertainment this month. Plus, it was a super handy prop while teaching kids church! I would HIGHLY recommend this πŸ™‚

Day 2: Decorate your own little Christmas tree with Selah!

I had seen this idea on Pinterest and was planning on buying the materials to make it, when lo and behold Michaels was selling the entire kit all cut-out and ready to go. For 50% off, of course! Yes, please.

My little elves at work

Although the felt pieces don’t stay on SUPER well, Elliott still had fun with it throughout the month. Selah definitely enjoyed it from time-to-time, too.

Day 3: New Christmas movie: Charlie Brown Christmas

I’m not kidding you…this is often how they watch shows!! Melts this mama’s heart.

Day 4: It’s snowing out! Make snow crafts!

When we woke up to snow, I knew we had to do something snow-related.

My beauty, staring out the window at everything covered in WHITE…

This snowman was super fun because I literally came up with the idea on the spot when I saw the snow and we had all the supplies in our house. I just drew the main body with glue and Elliott pretty much did the rest. (I cut out the hat and scarf and did the mouth…) We used salt for the snow at the bottom since that’s what we had!

Building his snowman…

SNOW cute, huh?! πŸ™‚

He really liked this craft πŸ™‚

Day 5: Counting with Christmas trees

Super fun idea from Pinterest! And super easy to put together with supplies I already had in the house.

I had to help him count “the ornaments” for some of the trees, but he overall did a pretty good job on his own!

Day 6: Bubble bath “snow”

Selah’s first bubble bath, and–I think–Elliott’s second! Why don’t I think to do bubble baths more often?? Elliott helped me make the “snow” and jumped right in to play, but Selah was pretty confused and disgusted at the white fluffies over-taking her normal, beloved bath water.

Elliott helps make “the snow” while Selah won’t move from this position…

“WHAT on EARTH? My hands are FILTHY with this ‘snow’! I thought baths were supposed to make me CLEAN!”

 

Elliott saves the day by showing her how harmless and fun this “snow” really is…

And she finally relaxed a little and started to have some snowball fun!

Day 7: Family Breakfast! Snowman pancakes

So. Much. Fun.

Elliott’s snowman (oops…forgot the hands and hat!)

I don’t think he noticed πŸ™‚

There we go…my snowman had all its parts!

Brian wasn’t a big fan of putting all of that candy, fruit, and bacon on his pancake so I made him a melted snowman :).

 

Day 8: Go out to dinner as a family, look at Christmas lights, come home and drink apple cider!

This was kind of a disaster :). We should have just picked a few houses to look at in our neighborhood, but instead we drove about 25 minutes away to hit several houses that were listed as some of the best Christmas lights in the city. Well, Selah’s not the biggest fan of long car rides :/ and so she was crying long before we even arrived at the first house. AAAAND….it was a bit of a LONG night. Note for next year: stay local :).

We took a picture of this house so we could decorate ours like this next year. πŸ™‚

We came home, put that poor, screaming Baby Bean to bed and got Elliott all pumped up for his first taste of real apple cider. We stared at him as he took Β his first sip, HUGE smiles spread across our faces from ear to ear, and held our breaths…

When he came up for air after his first drink, this was the face we saw.

You would think he LOVED it, right? Well, soon to find out, I think he was just trying to play along with the excitement on our faces. Because after his first sip he laughed with us and when we asked him if he liked it he said, “yes,” but when we asked if he wanted to take another sip he said, “No, thank you…” and gently pushed it away. HAHA! This is the kid who could scale a mountain for a sip of apple juice. Oh well. We tried :).

Day 9: Since it’s still too cold to play in the snow, let’s make our own!

Did I mention it wasn’t just snowy that first week of December, it hovered around ZERO DEGREES the entire week. It was C-O-L-D.

Start out with some baking soda…

…add a little shaving cream…

And you’ve got yourself some SNOW!

And a one year old who still isn’t impressed with this whole “snow” theme…

And a two year old who was in Heaven πŸ™‚

He may have had a little help with this snowman πŸ™‚

Day 10: Build a nativity set!

Michaels saves the day again. Elliott pretty much couldn’t do anything to put this together other than punch out the foam pieces, but he LOVED the activity. He also LOVED taking it completely apart the next day :/. And, for some reason (?) the many, MANY little separate mini pieces have provided hours upon hours of entertainment for him…he just sticks them all together and then unsticks them and then REPEATS… Hey, more power to him.

Punching out the GAZILLION tiny pieces….

He put all the completed put-together people and animals in their places…

And here we have our very own little “homemade” nativity set.

 

Day 11: Wear Christmas jammies all day, make Christmas cards and mail them out!

This was a good idea that went very, very badly. Note to self for next year: wear smocks over Christmas jammies. Or wear Christmas jammies on movie day (which, now that I think about it, makes WAY more sense…) Elliott got a TINY amount of paint on his Christmas jammies and it was ALL OVER from there. Melt down city. Fortunately, once the jammies had been washed, he recovered and we were able to finish the Christmas cards :). And just look at how cute they are in those jammies!

Oh my goodness…is he MY kid, OR WHAT?!! HAHAHA!!!!

Got the thumbprint lights idea from Pinterest and then we added our own captions :).

The green “lights” were Selah’s thumb…obviously completely guided by me. I also ended up guiding Elliott’s thumb, too…I think if he had had a better day πŸ™‚ he may have been able to do it himself, but he definitely needed help. Probably a better craft for 3 and ups.

Day 12: Make a Christmas decoration for the house with Selah!

An adapted Pinterest idea

Day 13: Family Movie night with popcorn (Veggie Tales Christmas)

This was one of those days that I was grateful Elliott can’t read yet :). At the last minute we decided to have some friends over for dinner so it ended up needing to be a FRIENDS movie night. When I pulled out the card I carefully said, “Well, tonight you get to watch a new movie with your FRIENDS!” Haha…

Day 14: Go out to breakfast as a family

Because at the very last minute we decided to ditch the idea I had planned of going to a Winter Fest…so we came up with this super creative idea very quickly…haha :).

Day 15: New Christmas book, hot cocoa & carols

Day 16: Work a brand new HUGE nativity puzzle!

If you don’t know already, this kid LOVES puzzles. We haven’t gotten him a new puzzle in a very long time and he can practically work all of his with his eyes closed. So I searched around and FINALLY found this one…which is AWESOME! It was the perfect level of challenge for him.

And it was huge, which was really fun. He’d never done a floor puzzle before.

Selah really, REALLY wanted to help but her “help” was frustrating the puzzle master at work. So I tried to distract her with her own while he finished up…

Almost done!!

Tah-dah!!

Day 17: Make special treats for our friends!

He helped me make Mint Brickle!

Day 18: Make presents for our friends (and Daddy…shhh) and deliver everything to our friends!

I really wanted to do something along the lines of giving, and this was a good start. Due to a variety of circumstances, he only actually got to DELIVER the treats and little presents to one family (because the rest ended up coming over!), but it was still really fun!!

I got this idea from Pinterest, but adapted it by using bells (instead of wooden beads) for the heads and figuring out how to use the pipe cleaner to hold it all together so I wouldn’t have to use glue. (Because who wants GLUE on their Hershey’s kiss??”

Then we put them in baggies and stuck this little message on there to go along with the verse they were all learning during kids church…

I got this picture-puzzle idea from Pinterest. Though he couldn’t really help place the strips of the picture on because that needed to be exact, he could paint the modge podge on himself!

Fun, huh? And we kept it a secret from Daddy until Christmas Day!

Day 19: Peppermint Day!

Oh man, this was so much fun that I’m thinking about doing a Peppermint WEEK next year…Maybe I could do themed weeks like “Snow Week,” “Peppermint Week,” etc…and do things each day that correlate. We all dressed in red and white, ate candy canes and Elliott did two candy cane crafts. Favorite quote from the day: As Elliott took his first bite of candy cane, he said, “I like it! It’s cold!” I said, “The candy cane is cold??” He responded, “Yeah–see?” as he breathed out super heavily. “See???” And he breathed out again. I realized he was trying to articulate that cool, pepperminty feeling that you get when you eat mint! Haha…I love it :).

After several failed attempts to get all three of us in our candy cane clothes in a pic, this one will have to do :). You can see how cute the kids are and I am wearing a white shirt and a red vest :).

This was SO simple and SUCH an age-appropriate, GOOD craft for Elliott. I simply cut out a white candy cane shape. We talked through how to mark every other stripe red, and then he colored in the stripes with red dots in them.

He then dipped cotton balls and red pom poms in glue and had to place them on the red and white striped parts!

Here he is, showing off his completed candy cane artwork while singing, “Angels, We Have Heard On High.” And Selah is posing near him because she just assumes that’s what she’s supposed to do when I have the camera out :).

He also did the classic “pony beads on pipe cleaner candy cane ornament.” They were out of red and white beads at the store, so I had to go with a multi-pack, but as we started the craft I realized it was better this way–it provided one more element of challenge. This was another super age-appropriate craft for him as he had to think about patterns, and he was able to do the whole thing entirely by himself.

What a cutie with a cool candy cane!

 

Day 20: Wrap your own “presents” while Mommy wraps presents!

Another GREAT idea (I thought) from Pinterest that went horrible :). Wrap up a sheet pan from the dollar store, stick magnets on bows, and there you have your very own “presents.” Β The blog post I got it from talked about how this provided hours of entertainment for the kids. “Perfect!” I thought. Well…not in this household :). Elliott kept snatching Selah’s bows from her so she couldn’t decorate hers and even after correcting him several times he just couldn’t keep his hands off her present. After multiple rounds of tears, correction, discipline, second chances…I just put the “presents” away and decided to wrap mine at nap time. Oh well…it’s the thought that counts, right? Haha. πŸ™‚

I took this picture MUCH later on…not on the day that it didn’t go so well :).

Day 21: Go to a Christmas party!

Day 22: Zoo lights!!

We met up with our friends the Sundbys and although it was FREEZING and Selah was not a happy camper unless she was walking BY HERSELF :/, it was really fun to go.

I think Elliott somewhat liked it, but his favorite part was…

DEFINITELY the REAL elephant that we got to see.

He kept asking the whole time where all of the animals were, and so I told him they must have been sleeping. Almost every day since then he has asked me if the giraffes are awake yet :). When we got in the car afterwards, I asked him if he had had fun. He answered, “Tiny bit.” πŸ™‚ So maybe we’ll skip this next year when he’s not free anymore…

Day 23: Make nativity puppets

This was just like the nativity set from Michaels, but puppets instead. Again, all he could (mostly) do was punch out the foam pieces, but he just LOVED this craft, and had so much fun playing with the puppets.

Well, because I think I’ve already far surpassed writing the world’s longest blog, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day details are in another blog post :). Click on the link to read all about it!

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